Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A modest proposal - The Blue Jays in Montreal

The Jays have been positioned by some as "Canada's Team", if only by process of elimination. But watching this weekend's CFL tilt (well, 45 seconds of it) from a packed and loud Olympic Stadium got us thinking: Could the Blue Jays play one series per year Montreal? Could they bring back MLB baseball to La Belle Province? Could they make an event that would resonate, and expand the fan base beyond Toronto?

As the Expos exit from the market slips further back into memory, and the bitterness over the team's demise dissolves into something that is less angry and more wistful, it strikes us that there sits a passionate base of baseball fans in the Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec City corridor who would (in our mind) show up for one three-game weekend series per year at the Big O. Maybe it sounds unlikely for all sorts of pragmatic reasons. But before you dismiss the notion out of hand, with the memories of empty seats in the cavernous and antiquated dome dominating your thought process, give us a second here to articulate what we'd envision.

We've heard the gnashing of teeth over the small crowds early on in the season, and it would seem to us that moving one weekend's worth of games to Montreal would create an event around an April series that might otherwise go mostly unnoticed outside the core set of baseball nerds. You'll create lots of anticipation beforehand: A full week of stories around the preparations; bumping an early season series from the dregs of the nightly sportscast into the top because of the novelty. You get to pull in players who had their time as both an Expo and Blue Jay (Al Oliver! Darren Fletcher! Err...David Segui?!), and take a sentimental journey back through the history of both franchises.

Moreover, it gives all Canadian baseball fans the opportunity to celebrate the lore and history of Nos amours. (Youppi!) And let's face it: There really wasn't any sort of rivalry between the Expos and Jays per se. Sure, there were some Pearson Cup games played and a few interleague series (Jeff Juden!), but for the most part, Jays fans would find themselves cheering for the Expos over in that other league without a hint of hesitation.

Most of all, it would bring baseball back to a city that deserves at least a few games to show that they were never as bad as some made them out to be, and that they can fill the park and make some noise. Even in those years where there seemed to be scant interest in the sport, the fans who showed up at the Big O were loud and proud, and we'd love to have that moment again.

And besides: Are you going to tell us that a weekend of baseball, smoked meat and general tomfoolery in Montreal doesn't sound incredibly awesome?

30 comments:

Tony said...

I like it. Get it done!

Dustin McGowan's Sideburns said...

Heck, why stop there? I think the Jays should play a few games in Vancouver as well.

Peter D said...

In theory I think this is a good idea, and I think Montreal is a very underrated baseball town. I used to make the pilgrimage to Montreal once a year to catch a baseball game and those crowds of 5,000 were loader than 40,000 at the Skydome.

That being said, I think there are all sort of logistical issues that would prevent this from happening, including the big-O is no longer capable of hosting baseball without a significant investment. They don't even have field turf anymore. Also I remember hearing something about an MLB approval process that would likely prevent it from happening.

Pat said...

It's a good idea, but I'm afraid an April date would run into the same issues there as here, i.e. hockey sucks all the air out of any other sport that time of year in Canada. But as an Expos fan myself, and former Montreal resident, this definitely is a great idea. And I agree with the poster who also included Vancouver in that proposal. Perhaps even against Seattle, to create even more of an event?

Navin V. said...

Are you going to tell us that a weekend of baseball, smoked meat and general tomfoolery in Montreal doesn't sound incredibly awesome?

I LOVE MONTREAL!!!1

I remember this idea was floated around by a few when the Jays/Philly series was canceled thanks to the G20, and moved down south. Certainly a missed opportunity, but if, like you're saying, it's a big event with a ton of planning, absolutely, the Jays should get on it. Anthopoulos said he wants to make inroads in Quebec, and he speaks French.

I asked a die-hard Expos fan what he thought of the idea, and he poo-poo'd it. Said Expos fans didn't want pity. He gave up on baseball. Didn't become a Jays fan. Is that the case for most of Montreal's baseball fans?

Anyway, this makes perfect sense. Which is why it won't happen.

mike from ottawa said...

ROAD TRIP!!!!

The Ack said...

Since an exhibition game at CanWest Park (or whatever we're calling it post-demise) is too much to ask, I'd settle for a rebirth of the Blue Jays Western Canadian Caravan.

But yeah, I wonder how up to snuff the Big-O would be to host a major league series these days...

G Valentino said...

I used to go to opening day in Montreal for a few years, and some of those years were during great Habs years, and those games were very loud sell outs.

Montreal and Quebec does have a lot of great baseball fans and I think for a limited engagement they would make it worthwhile.

As for the G20 - it was floated around by fans, and there was no way that the O could be fitted for baseball quickly enough. This is well documented.

What about taking this a step further: Play a Mariners/Jays series in Vancouver, since the Canadians are the farm team there. I know there's a bigger issue there with where the game will be played, but it's worth spitballing as a way to keep warm during the winter

Tao of Stieb said...

It's interesting that some Expos fans wouldn't want it...because I actually see a lot of Jays caps when I go to Montreal these days. (We'll have to ask Jonah Keri.)

And if you've been around Montreal during Jazz Fest, the Comedy Festival, FrancoFollies, or the F1, you know that the city can turn out a party.

And plus: April is the start of the short skirt season in MTL. Mrroawr.

@Peter: The crowds in Montreal were really loud and fun. Even when there weren't many there, they made themselves heard.

@Pat: I actually think that you could pull off an April series, even if the Habs are in the playoffs. But no doubt, it would work better if they were the only show in town. I just don't see how the Jays would let a Summer series go.

@Dustin's Lambchops: As nice as Nat Bailey is, I don't see it being able to host anything more than an exhibition game. Also, the Mariners would scream bloody murder.

James - Toronto said...

I love the idea of the Jays hosting some games in Montreal. I'd travel to Montreal for sure (strippers and poutine certainly help too). I imagine it would be a big draw for people around the region.

That being said, I imagine it would be a nightmare logistically. You would have to discount season ticket prices in Toronto and endure the extra expenses of travel of staff and staffing at the big O. If you were able to get 30,000+ per game vs 15,000 per game in Toronto, it might be worth it. Unless it is a chance to make money, I don't see the Jays doing it.

Shortwaveboy said...

Great idea.

GCM1979 said...

Love the idea, although, if it were to happen in Montreal, because of the size of the O, I would want to bring in a big name, like the Red Sox.

I'd also like to see some spring training games up here. Vancouver (Scotiabank park) isn't all that cold in the spring (compared to Toronto), and Winnipeg (Canwest park) could easily host one of their last ST games, as well.
Having teams near in Geography would help. Twins aren't that far off from Winnipeg, and Vancouver is pretty close to the Mariners.

I think it would be a great initiative to get people even more excited accross the country.

Unfortunately, Montreal is the only venue, other than the Rogers Centre that could host a regular season game.

and the fans ARE in Montreal. Being a ST holder, I saw so many Quebecers make weekend trips down to check out "their" Blue Jays. They love the Jays up there, and are starved for som MLB action.

Even an interleague game versus the Nats would be an interesting thought.

Regardless, great idea Tao!

Anonymous said...

Exhibition is one thing, but not a regular season series. Has to be approved by players union and they won't under any circumstances.

You'd also need support on Montreal's end which is doable but another obstacle--I don't even know who you'd talk to about staffing/concessions/stadium ops. I think you could do a 2-game exhibition series with the Jays subsidizing the cost to fly somebody's AAA team out there, but it's alot of work on their end.

But you'll see them in BC Place before you see them in Montreal.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

I love the idea! If it happened, I could drive up from Maine and perhaps meet a few of you. That would be cool too.

Torgen said...

The players' union approved two regular season games in Japan before spring training was over. Montreal should be a slam dunk competed to that.

Torgen said...

(competed -> compared... A rare miss by swype.)

The 5th Starter said...

Anonymous was starting to touch on what I think is an even better idea: The Blue Jays NEED to buy an International League franchise, and relocate them to Canada. My first hope was to rejuvenate the Lynx, but how amazing would a AAA team in Montreal be? The team would have to invest in improvements to the "Big O," and as a result, the stadium would be well prepared for exhibition MLB games at first, and maybe MLB regular season a few years into the project.

GREAT POST!

gsjays said...

I like the idea..I'd actually like to see the Jays buy a AAA affiliate in the international league and move it to Montreal....

Anonymous said...

The big O needs so much work, it's cost-prohibitive for a single series a year I think.

Xave said...

Jays' catchers and coaches might be annoyed by having to re-learn all the signals in French.

Anonymous said...

"The players' union approved two regular season games in Japan before spring training was over. Montreal should be a slam dunk competed to that. "

Well if the Jays want to pay someone's AAA players $50,000 each per game, all the power to them. You don't get these things for free, you know.

Anonymous said...

STUUUUPID IDEA!!!! They are the TORONTO Blue Jays. Montreal you had your chance and blew it!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Always up for tomfoolery in Montreal (great word!) but logistically it probably wouldn't make much sense. If the Jays figured it would be more profitable to have a series against Roy freakin' Halladay in Philly than it would be to open up the Big D'oh for a weekend series that should probably tell you something.

Anonymous said...

As a relatively new Montreal resident I think this would be great. I would also like to see a minor league team in Montreal. A Jays affiliate would be nice, but any baseball would be good.

Anonymous said...

2 problems with this concept....
1)Montreal hates Toronto. Sorry if you hadn't noticed but it's true and has been for 250 years.
2)Montreal hates MLB. And why shouldn't they? They were screwed over and essentially had at least 1 and possibly 2 World Series and 1 entire franchise stolen from them by MLB.
Other than that, great plan.
Bring back Cito!

Anonymous said...

http://communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/bulldog/archive/2010/11/24/chiarelli-negotiating-with-blue-jays-to-bring-baseball-to-ottawa.aspx

This is a long shot I think.

Anonymous said...

Idiotically easy to do, and a great idea. There is currently a sea of nada in the stands in TO until the NHL playoffs are over, and the Leafs haven't been in it since before the freaking lockout. GREAT IDEA TAO!! Hardcore Jays fans get a free poutine and half off the busfare to use their season ticket in MTL against the Nats in May. Or a couple of seat upgrades at later games in TO if they don't like the other Canada. I think it would be a huge success.

Toragirl said...

I think you just proved I'm a baseball nerd. I got the Jeff Juden reference.

This would be a great road trip, right up there with a weekend in Cooperstown (Tom Cheek & Robbie Alomar????)

Anonymous said...

"This is a long shot I think."

Moreso. This mysterious ownership group he speaks up would have to purchase an existing franchise and move it to Ottawa. Minor league baseball is big bucks--we're talking franchise values of 20 million at least. Teams are for sale, but who's investing 20 million into something that failed miserably 3 years ago?

Good on the councillor for wanting what would undoubtedly be good for the Jays and baseball in Canada, but they had their chance and they blew it.

Gil Fisher said...

Where's Ack the Slack?